Hamburger buns might seem like they're just not worth making. There's an enormous variety available at the store and it's just so easy to grab them and not think about it after that. Hamburgers are supposed to be an easy, no-fuss meal so why complicate things, right? Wrong. These hamburger buns replace the waste-of-space which is most supermarket buns with a soft, tender, delicious bread, elevating the hamburger from meat sandwiched between two flavorless dry sponges into something more complete and, frankly, worth eating.
If you have any experience with making bread, these shouldn't be very difficult. If you're new to making bread, this are a pretty forgiving place to start. My only advice is to pay less attention to the precise amounts I have listed and more to the feel and look of the dough that I will describe for you.
I found this recipe on KingArthurFlour many years ago. I've tried other recipes but always return to this one. It's a simple recipe with basic ingredients but it always yields the most delicious results. We use them for hamburgers and then enjoy the leftovers just as much for sandwiches the next day or toasted with butter and honey later on. (Can you say that for the store bought kind?)
1 cup lukewarm water
1 tbsp active dry yeast
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp butter, softened
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 1/4 tsp salt
3- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 egg, optional, for the brush, or melted butter
1. First prove your yeast: mix a generous pinch of sugar into the 1 cup water and stir in the yeast. Cover with a towel and let sit 5 minutes. It should become bubbly and foamy. This is proof your yeast is still active.
2. Pour the yeast mixture into your mixer along with the butter, egg, sugar, salt, and 3 cups of the flour. Using the dough hook attachment, mix on low until combined and then knead on medium low speed until smooth, shiny, and soft. This can take up to 10 minutes. You may need more flour, but add it one tbsp at a time. The dough should pull away from the mixer and gather together in a smooth ball. It should feel tacky but not sticky. Go by your senses here. If the dough is too sticky it will be very difficult to shape into buns later on. If it's too dry you'll end up with a dry crumb. You want a soft and supple dough. Shape the dough into a smooth ball and set in a lightly greased bowl.
3. Cover the dough and let rise 1 - 2 hours, or until nearly doubled. If your house is quite warm, it will be closer to an hour. If it's cool, it will take longer.
4. Gently punch down the dough. Divide into 10 pieces. If you're neurotic like I am, this involves weighing the total dough and then dividing by ten. Shape each piece into a round ball. I do this by rolling the dough between my hands and then pinching the sides from the top down to the bottom all around into a center seam to create a nice smooth top. (It's impossible to shape and photograph so I've taken one photo which I think shows what I mean.) Place the buns on a parchment lined baking sheet and press down to about 3" across. (You might need to wait a few minutes for the dough to relax to get them to press down.) Cover with lightly greased plastic wrap and let rise until puffy, about an hour. To tell that the buns are properly proofed and ready to bake, you should lightly press the dough with your index finger. The dough should hold an indent for a few seconds and then slowly spring back. If it springs back too soon, it is too tight and not yet fully risen. If it holds the indent too long it may be overproofed and likely to deflate in the oven.
5. After about 40 minutes of the second proof, preheat the oven to 375. When the buns are ready to bake, brush them with either an egg beaten with a tablespoon of water or with a couple tablespoons of melted butter. The egg wash will give the buns a nice shiny crust and will adhere any poppyseeds or sesame seeds you might want to sprinkle on. The melted butter will give the buns a soft, golden crust.
6. Bake for about 15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and let cool on a rack until completely cool.